Magazine article Artforum International

Mariah Garnett: LTD Los Angeles

Magazine article Artforum International

Mariah Garnett: LTD Los Angeles

Article excerpt

Mariah Garnett

LTD LOS ANGELES

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Titled "Other & Father," Mariah Garnett's first solo show at ltd los angeles revolved around a BBC television news feature shot in Belfast in 1971 that addressed the challenges faced by a young couple of different denominations at the start of the sectarian fray that came to be known as the Troubles. The Protestant half of this relationship happens to be Garnett's father--a parent the artist would not meet until 2007, after a separation that lasted most of her life--here just inching past adolescence, sporting a very glam haircut and shown alongside his then girlfriend. Garnett was twenty-six when she and her father reunited, still young enough to relate as a peer to his televised image, though obviously not to the man she encountered three and a half decades after the program's airing. Perhaps it was this relative closeness to the onscreen persona that inspired her to produce this show's titular work, a film in which she plays her father's part, in a shot-by-shot remake of the BBC footage. The original and its copy were projected on facing walls of the gallery's back room, requiring viewers to continually swivel their heads between "father" and "other."

Even before considering what it all means, one had the impulse to compare, to measure the accuracy of the reenactment, noting any telling deviations. Garnett's acting is impressive: Adopting her father's sartorial style, his somewhat hunched bearing, uncertain gestures, and impish expressions, she credibly passes for him. The Irish trans actress Robyn Reihill, cast in the role of his girlfriend, also delivers an astute portrayal. And perhaps even more remarkably, despite the almost half century that has elapsed between the two films, the city of Belfast looks about the same. Yet within this close correspondence, subtler signs of generational division become acute. Of particular note is the way the two sets of subjects relate to the camera. Beyond the obvious distinction that, in the first instance, they are captured live, whereas in the second, the performances have been rehearsed, both films, in their different ways, are docudramas; both capture in time the construction of new identities for dissemination. In light of Garnett's deft impersonation, one becomes sensitized to the cues that her father is himself perhaps taking from his favorite pop stars--notably Bowie--in interview etiquette. …

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